Oct 112019

A little thank you can save a clergy person’s life

thank you

October is clergy appreciation month and this Sunday is Clergy Appreciation Day. It is one of those celebrations that very few people actually know about and even fewer actually celebrate. I don’t expect people to say thank you to me for the work I do, but it does my soul a lot of good when they do. Especially when I am struggling with my depression and PTSD.

I wrote almost a month ago about the statistics concerning clergy. It is rather eye opening to see the number of clergy persons who struggle with mental health issues, financial struggles and educational inadequacies. I struggle with all three of those and sometimes all at the same time.

I try to keep my posting on social media and my blog postings here light and upbeat, but even that can be a struggle at times. Sometimes though, I need to just talk about the dark times and let out the sadness that I feel.

In many cases, I turn to fellow clergy for this support. And I have so many great people who love and support me. If it were not for them, I would not be here today. You see, I am one of those sad statistics concerning clergy. In the past, I have twice tried to commit suicide. Thankfully, I failed both times. (Or this blog post would be a Halloween spooky story of posting from the great beyond!)

Clergy are there for people on the darkest days of their lives. We stand with you when you have lost loved ones, suffered heartbreak or divorce, or have lost everything and are facing financial or physical ruin. We cry with you, laugh with you, pray with you, counsel you and stand with you when others walk away.

And I love helping others so much. All of us do to some degree or another or we would not be clergy. Sometimes it hurts to hear what people say about us and think about the work we do. I have been told by people that I need to get a “real” job. Others ask me if I am a child molester. Some question whether or not I am educated enough to do the work of the ministry. And some seem to go out of their way to say the most hurtful things possible to wound me.

And yet, I still answer the phone and show up at the hospital when needed. I still provide care and concern for those who have hurt me most. Because that is what I am called to do.

Take time today to thank your pastor for all their hard work. Thank them for being there when you need them most. Show them some small sign of appreciation for their dedication to a calling that we can never shut off.

You might actually help save them from a very dark day by doing so.

Oct 042019
changes

Today I went to see my primary care doctor. It was a routine visit. However, as is the case in most of life, nothing is really routine. He encouraged me to continue making little changes to my routines and life to become more healthy. The idea of little changes is one that Saint Francis spoke of a lot.

Most of us view Saint Francis as the kind of person who walked in and made radical changes to the world around him. However, Saint Francis’ story is one laden with little changes that created a ripple effect. Take for instance is renunciation of his father’s wealth. While not a huge change that effected the world in that moment, it started a ripple that would change everything in the church.

His rebuilding of the chapel in San Damiano was a small step that involved just him at first. But as he worked to rebuilt the chapel, others joined his efforts. Saint Francis did not start out to form a religious order. He just wanted to be closer to God. However, today there are 4,688 communities, 30,068 members (not counting the Third Order or lay orders), with an additional 20,289 priests. And that is just in the Roman Catholic Church! That does not include the Anglican/Episcopalian or Old Catholic/Independent Catholic orders in the world.

Saint Francis did not envision his work to help the poor and sick becoming a world-wide movement of people dedicating their lives to the service of others. I am not sure any of the founders of the main religious orders started out with that goal. But along the way, that is what happened.

Our little changes in life can have a big impact. In my own life, I have started to eat more vegetables and I go to the gym to exercise several times a week (5 times if possible). In the past year and a half, I have lost 42 lbs and I feel much better. My doctor encouraged me to remove processed foods and diet drinks from my diet as well. And today I started that process.

Here at Saint Francis Parish, we are committed to making little changes that we hope will impact others lives for the better. We need your help to make that happen. Whether it is financial support (via https://paypal.me/saintfrancis) or by volunteering your time and energy to help us grow. You can make a difference in our world by committing to little changes. Join us for Sunday Mass at either of our locations. Volunteer to help at Mass. Sign up to help with the blessing bag program. Let us know what your strengths are and how you would like to help our parish.

Your help can be a little change that sets the world on fire!

Sep 272019

To be an authentic Christian requires action

christian

Being an authentic Christian requires more than talk, it requires action as well. This is a hard lesson to learn, but one that is vital to our salvation.

As a small parish, we don’t have a lot of parishioners. That does not mean that the work is any less important or that the struggle is any less difficult. In some ways, the struggle is greater. We have fewer people to help with vital programs that our community needs.

We started a new mission in Graniteville South Carolina in the hopes that we will be able to grow a parish in the Midland Valley area. Our attempts at growth in Augusta Georgia have been difficult. Sadly, the South is a difficult area for liturgical churches, especially progressive ones.

One of my greatest fears as a pastor is that the parish will fail. After 7 years of attempts in Augusta, that fear is becoming all the more real. Yet, we continue to try. We look for new ways to reach out to those who are in most need of our help. Our parish started the Blessing Bags program to aid the homeless in our area. We are working to find a location to place a Blessing Box that the parish will keep stocked with basic food items. We are reaching out to the ministries in the area to provide assistance to programs already in progress.

And every Sunday, Father Matt and I celebrate Mass for the needs of our church and the community at large. This Sunday we are offering Mass for all our beloved homeless who are in such great need. Just like Lazarus in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, they are ignored and abused by those who could be helping them.

So many people wish to call themselves a Christian, but lack the desire to actually help those in need. Our ministries and parishes in the OCCI continue to astound me as they work to provide much needed services to those in most need. We don’t just talk about helping others, we actually do it.

At Saint Francis Parish we decided that despite the lack of people in the pews, we would build programs to help others. We are continuing to help those in need with the meager resources we have. And thanks to our family in the OCCI, we continue to build blessing bags stocked with much needed supplies.

And you can help too. All you have to do is come to Saint Francis Parish in Graniteville or Augusta and volunteer to help. Become an active part of our parish ministry and help us help others.

And in doing so, you will experience a new and authentic way to be a Catholic Christian.

Sep 212019

Serving two masters and a new mission

serving

This Sunday we read about how serving two masters is impossible. We also hear that the Lord remembers how we treat the poor and needy in our midst. These are hard readings to hear sometimes. Especially in our society where the poor are dismissed and abused and the rich are praised and exalted.

Our new mission that opens this Sunday sits in a unique location that affords us the opportunity to help people of various walks of life. Saint Francis Parish – Graniteville sits in an area that will afford us the opportunity to help those who need it most.

Our mission will continue our work to help the homeless with food and supplies they need most. We continue to work to build up our blessing bag program. A list of supplies we need will be posted soon so that you can help support this ministry.

The vision of the new mission is to build up a faith community that then goes out into the world to live the Gospel. It is not just enough to preach the Gospel with our mouths, we must also preach it with our very lives. This is what is meant by not serving two masters. We must serve the God of compassion, love, and service rather than the gods of greed, hate, and selfishness.

In order to do this, we need your help. We need you to come be a part of our parish family. We need you to commit to supporting our work and efforts by tithing with your money and your time. It is our hope that we will someday be in a building that we own so that we can offer even more services to the community as a whole. However, we will need your help to make it possible.

Please join us this Sunday, September 22, as we launch Saint Francis Parish – Graniteville. We will celebrate Mass at 10:00 AM at 6 Hickman Street in Graniteville, South Carolina. We meet on the campus of the Hope Center School. You can also join us for Mass at 3:00 PM at 2321 Lumpkin Road in Augusta, Georgia at the beautiful Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church.

It is our parish family’s commitment to be a beacon of hope, light and love to the CSRA. Come and experience a different and exciting way to be Catholic!

Sep 132019

Please thank your pastor today

Thank your pastor

This past week a pastor commented to me how tired they were and how they are rarely if ever told thank you. I understand that feeling of tiredness and being unappreciated. I also understand how hard it is sometimes to feel so alone in a ministry field. Please take a moment to read this entire blog post. Your pastor’s life may depend on it.

I and my fellow pastors need you to understand a few things about how ministry works. Take a look at these numbers:

  • 72% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 84% of pastors feel they are on call 24/7.
  • 80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families.
  • 78% of pastors report having their vacation and personal time interrupted with ministry duties or expectations.
  • 35% of pastors report the demands of the church denies them from spending time with their family.
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and family to live at a higher moral standard than themselves.
  • 57% of pastors believe they do not receive a livable wage.
  • 57% of pastors are unable to pay their bills.
  • 75% of pastors report significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses have felt unqualified and discouraged as role of pastors at least one or more times in their ministry.
  • 52% of pastors feel overworked and cannot meet their church’s unrealistic expectations. 
  • 54% of pastors find the role of a pastor overwhelming.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once in the last year.
  • 35% of pastors battle depression or fear of inadequacy.
  • 26% of pastors report being over fatigued.
  • 28% of pastors report they are spiritually undernurished.
  • Over 50% of pastors state the biggest challenge is to recruit volunteers and encourage their members to change (living closer to God’s Word).
  • 70% of pastors report they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.
  • 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider to be a close friend.
  • 57% of pastors feel fulfilled but yet discouraged, stressed, and fatigued. 
  • 1 out of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a pastor. 

I know that is a lot of statistics, but I feel you need to hear what we go thru. On top of all those, the one thing I hear most from my fellow pastors is that they rarely are told thank you. It may seem like a really small thing, but trust me, it is huge to a pastor.

Right around the corner is Clergy Appreciation Month. We take the entire month of October as an opportunity to thank those clergy people who serve us in ways we do not fully understand every day. And yet, so many people fail to take time to thank their pastor.

Why not start now? Why not take a moment to thank your pastor?

If you would like to show your appreciation in other ways, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Say thank you to your pastor on a regular basis. This is the most simple way to show your gratitude.
  2. Give your pastor a gift. It can be something as small as a handwritten note telling them how thankful you are for them and how they impacted you in positive ways. Or it can be something as elaborate as a gift card to a nice Resturant or their favorite coffee spot.
  3. Donate to the church in their honor. Most pastors spend hours on top of hours worried about their church’s finances. You can help to alleviate that worry by donating and say thank you by doing it in their honor.
  4. Volunteer at church. Most pastor’s end up doing a lot of work at church because there are not enough hands to help. You can help lighten their load by volunteering to help in the parish. You can do something as simple as cleaning the bathrooms or refilling the paper towels. That is one less job your pastor has to do.

These are just a few simple ways you can show your gratitude. This will help to lift your pastor’s spirit and keep them from possibly burning out.

Please join me in celebrating Clergy Appreciation Month just a little early!

Sep 072019

Change brings a new mission

mission

Many people find change to be almost impossible. They believe that change is a bad thing to be avoided at all cost. This is not always the case and in most situations, change is a the start of something new and exciting. Our new mission starting on September 22 is one of those changes that is new and exciting. 

We will continue to offer Mass at Saint Alban’s Episcopal Church in Augusta, GA at 3:00 PM on Sunday evenings. We will start offering Mass at 6 Hickman Street in Graniteville, South Carolina starting on September 22 at 10:00 AM. That’s right, we will be celebrating Mass at 10:00 AM in the morning on Sunday’s!

We have heard so many people comment that the afternoon Mass was difficult to attend. This gives people a chance to celebrate Mass with us and still have time on Sunday for family or relaxation.

We are so very thankful for the Hope Center School’s willingness to offer us this time and space to continue working to grow our parish family. However, we cannot do it alone! We need your help!

As a loving, inclusive and welcoming parish, it is our desire to grow a parish that not only helps those who have been hurt by other churches, but also to work to help those in need in the community. Graniteville is a great place to build this ministry.

As we grow, we will continue to look for opportunities to move our parish into our own home. We will continue to look for space to rent or buy that can be ours. Once we get to that point, we will offer Mass more often, small groups and homeless ministry outreach beyond just our blessing bags.

Now is the perfect time to join us as we work to grow this new mission. Come experience a different way to be Catholic!

Jul 132018

Power made perfect in weakness

weakness

Last week I was struggling to come up with something to say. I spent days working myself to the bone and trying to avoid the elephant in the room. I was depressed and I was feeling very insecure about my abilities. My struggle was with my weakness. I cannot say that I am better this week, but I am trying to find my path through this struggle.

I know you are tired of hearing of my struggles. Everyone has their limits. I have been told time and time again that I need to stop talking about my brokenness and my struggles. However, Saint Paul did just that in last Sunday’s reading:

Brothers and sisters:
That I, Paul, might not become too elated,
because of the abundance of the revelations,
a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan,
to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.
Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me,
but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness.”
I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Saint Paul talked about his brokenness a lot. And he said that we find strength in our weakness. That God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

I talk about my brokenness not to puff myself up or to make people feel sorry for me. I speak about it so that others know the struggles I have gone through and they too can find hope. It is my desire to help people find hope even when they feel so hopeless.

So talk about your struggle. Share your brokenness with others. Yes, it makes you vulnerable and some may hurt you by rejecting you. But they did that to Jesus too:

Jesus departed from there and came to his native place, accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished.
They said, “Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
Are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and among his own kin and in his own house.”
So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there,
apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.
He was amazed at their lack of faith.

(Mark 6:1-6)

Let us move forward in proclaiming the love of God and showing his power through our weakness!

Jun 292018

My own battle with worry

Worry

I worry a lot. It is something that has plagued me for years. Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in God and faith in my church family. I just allow myself to worry about things I have no control over.

I think we all do that to a degree. We allow ourselves to envision the worse possible scenario for every situation. I know that this is my great curse. I always “prepare” myself for the worst possible outcome. This, of course, causes me to worry and takes a tremendous toll on my health.

I do this for a wide range of things too. A couple of weeks ago I had to leave an event early because I was sick. I should have left far earlier than I did, but I stayed because I was worried about what people would think or say about me. I consider all those people my friends and I have a great amount of respect for them. But I still worried about what they would say or think of me because I had to leave.

And a part of me still worries about it. You see, I have spent years of my life trying so very hard to earn people’s respect. I have always felt like I am inferior to everyone. I am the least educated of my friends and family. I am not as healthy as many of them are. I am broken and damaged. Even down to the fact that I suffer from PTSS and depression.

I allow all those things to bounce around in my head and convince me that I am not worthy of love or respect. And then comes the worry. What if I am not good enough? What if I say the wrong thing? Will I end up running everyone off because of my brokenness? What will happen if I cannot do all the things they can do or stay through all the events they need me to stay for? Will they still respect me, love me, want me around if I cannot be what I think they want me to be?

And then the race has begun. The great race in my own head. It keeps going and going until I am almost paralyzed with fear, worry, anxiety, and overwhelming sadness.

I speak about these things not to get sympathy, but so that you can understand the struggle that I and many others deal with on a daily basis. Pastor’s deal with depression and anxiety in record numbers. That is why so many quit and so many loose their faith. They cannot continue fighting the battle that wages within themselves.

Yes, I still worry. I am far from perfect. But I continue to fight everyday to improve. I try to be there for others despite my own struggles. But I am also learning that I must take time to care for me too. And I am working on that. I am going to take a day off every week. I may not return emails or phone calls on that day unless it is an emergency. And at some point, I may have to give up some of the organizations I work with now for my own health’s sake. (Not the church, but other civic organizations I volunteer with. )

I understand your struggle with worry and anxiety. And hopefully, if you do not experience worry and anxiety, maybe you at least understand the struggle many of us have with it after reading this.

The goal is to keep on keeping on and to rest from time to time so that we can keep on going!

And do not worry, I still love you just the way you are!

Jun 222018

Hate has no home at Saint Francis

Hate has no home here

Yesterday marked the beginning of my twentieth (20) year since I was consecrated as a Bishop. It also marked my 39th revolution around the sun. In all that time, I have never seen the kind of hatred, bigotry, and racism that I have seen in the last couple of years. And this week, that hatred, bigotry, and racism touched our sister parish in Flourtown, PA.

Bishop St George, the pastor of Saint Miriam Parish arrived at the parish to find the parish had been vandalized. They had damaged one of the Saint Francis statues and torn up the “Hate has no home here” sign. It is sad that someone destroyed a sign calling for an end to hate because of the hate in their heart. They destroyed a statue of the saint who said, “Let me be an instrument of your peace.”

This person had so much hate in their heart that they could not see the great irony of their actions. They could not see that they were damaging the very church who would welcome them into the fold with open arms and not condemn them for their past.

At Saint Francis we have seen our share of hate. I get hate mail on a regular basis. I even had someone advocate for branding other human beings by tattooing their crimes and sins on their foreheads. And sadly, they did this in the middle of Mass, right in the middle of my homily on forgiveness!

We have allowed hate to overrun our society and it is creeping into our churches. We as a church have a moral obligation to stop it. It is our responsibility to call it out, to shine the light on it wherever it resides. Sometimes we have to turn away people who damage those seeking refuge in the church. It does not mean that we love them any less, it does not mean that we hate them. No, it means that we must protect those in our flock from the hatred and bigotry that resides in them. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 5 Saint Paul tells us that sometimes we have to remove those who are disruptive and dangerous to the church as a whole.

We will continue to love them from afar and to pray for them. Even those who vandalize and damage our parishes. But we cannot give hate a home in our parishes. This is why we have the Covenant at Saint Francis. It is a pledge to build up the community while leaving behind the hatred, bigotry, and damaging behavior that we have all experienced in other churches.

And at Saint Francis we will continue to love everyone while still protecting the body of Christ from hate and violence.

Jun 152018

Change is needed

Change

The world seems to have gone crazy lately. In fact, many people seem willing to exchange the truth for a lie and to exchange compassion for hatred, bigotry, and violence. Change is considered to be a dirty word, and yet, change is exactly what we need!

We have been warned throughout Scripture that such times would come. Many people think that these are the end times, but I believe we are merely at the end of an age. We are at a point where the pendulum will swing back to a more compassionate and caring place.

That said, we must be willing to be the instruments of change in the world around us. We cannot bury our head in the sand and expect things to improve on their own. Throughout history good men and women chose to hide their eyes from the horrors around them. And by doing so they, at very least, allowed bad things to happen, and at worst, approved of those acts.

For years I have preached about walking the middle of the road and now I see now the error of that teaching. By walking the middle of the road, I have allowed the evil the world to triumph. Rather than walk the middle of the road, we need to be willing to speak up against the horror of hate, bigotry, anger, and violence that has taken over our society.

Make no mistake, you will loose friends and family if you choose to speak up. People will label you as a troublemaker or worse. They even treated Jesus this way. Everyone abandoned Jesus. You are in good company.

Now is the time to stand up. It is time to stop hiding from the darkness and to confront it. It is time to live our faith. And our faith calls us to love others, to take in the stranger and refugee. Today is the day to be Christ to the world!

And if that cost me everything, I will give it all up to serve others and to follow my Christ!

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